5 Red Sox Players Facing a Make-or-Break Year in 2013
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Five Red Sox players are facing "make-or-break" years in 2013.
Some of them do for their recent injuries. Some of them do because they enter their contract years.
All of them do for their disappointing 2012 seasons.
Last year, Kevin Youkilis, Cody Ross and Daisuke Matsuzaka were the three Red Sox players facing make-or-break years.
Youkilis needed to bounce back from his injuries in 2011 and perform in his contract year. However, he did not and was traded midseason.
Ross signed an inexpensive one-year deal following a disappointing 2011 season. He played a full season, dominated left-handed pitching and posted solid numbers.
Lastly, Dice-K entered the final year of his contract after posting terrible numbers in his previous three years with the team. He continued to spiral downward and ended his tenure with the Red Sox, and maybe Major League Baseball, on a sour note.
None of the three are still with the Red Sox, but one of them had a breakout season and signed a big contract in the following offseason.
Several players in the following slideshow look to succeed like Ross did in his make-or-break season, and try to stay with the team and/or sign expensive contracts after the 2013 season.
Stephen Drew needs to hit like he did in 2010 during his make-or-break year.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
For the second straight season, Stephen Drew will be facing a make-or-break year. He played just 86 games in 2011 before his contract year, and he played just 79 games in 2012 during his contract year.
His recent injuries were exactly why the Red Sox signed the shortstop to just a one-year deal.
Drew has played just 165 regular-season games in the last two years. He didn’t exactly produce in those two years either.
In 2011, the 29-year-old hit .252 and slugged .396 with 31 extra-base hits and 45 runs batted in with the Diamondbacks. Last season, he hit .223 and slugged .348 with 21 extra-base hits and 28 runs batted in with both the D-Backs and Athletics.
Even in the 2012 ALDS, Drew hit just .211 (4-for-19) with two doubles, one RBI and seven strikeouts.
Drew could have a breakout year, similar to how Adrian Beltre did with the Red Sox during his one-year deal in 2010. On the other hand, he could have another injury-plagued season, produce mediocre stats and diminish his value even more when he’s a free agent again.
For Drew to sign a multi-year contract after this season, he’ll need to have a similar year to what he produced in 2010. He played 151 games, hit .278 and slugged .458 with 33 doubles, 12 triples, 15 homers and 61 RBI.
He hit more extra-base hits in 2010 (62) than he did in 2011 and 2012 combined (52).
Drew must show consistency and play a full season during his make-or-break year to improve his stock for next offseason.
Mike Napoli needs to continue to crush the ball at Fenway Park to extend his adjusted one-year deal.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Like Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli faces a second straight make-or-break year. The newly added first baseman played just 108 games, hit .227 and slugged .469 during his contract year in 2012.
His recent injuries played a key role in the Red Sox restructuring his contract from a three-year deal to a less expensive one-year deal with major incentives.
If Napoli has a great year, he will earn $13 million in 2013 and re-sign the three-year, $39 million deal. If not, he could be a free agent again.
The 31-year-old needs to have a similar year to what he produced in 2011 to earn the multi-year contract.
In 2011, Napoli hit .320 and slugged .631 with 25 doubles, 30 home runs, 75 runs batted in and a very impressive .414 on-base percentage over 113 games.
In Napoli’s favor, he will be playing a less demanding fielding position and at a ballpark he has great success at.
Rather than playing catcher, a position at which he’s started 485 career games, he will be playing first base, a position at which he’s started 118 games, in 2013.
On top of that, the first baseman has a career .306 AVG and .710 SLG with four doubles, seven home runs, 17 runs batted in and an incredible 1.107 OPS in 19 games at Fenway Park. In 2012, the right-handed slugger hit .462 and slugged 1.231 with one double, three HRs and eight RBI in three games in Boston.
The former Ranger won’t produce those ridiculous numbers over 81 regular-season games at Fenway Park, but he needs to continue to take advantage of the Green Monster in left field.
Napoli must show off his power and stay healthy during his make-or-break year for the Red Sox to extend his one-year contract.
Jacoby Ellsbury could sign a huge contract after his make-or-break season.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jacoby Ellsbury enters the final year of his contract and could test free agency for the first time in his career after the 2013 season.
If he wants to sign an expensive, long-term contract, he’ll need a monstrous year compared to his 2011 campaign.
However, he played just 74 games in 2012.
Last season, Ellsbury hit .271 and slugged .370 with 18 doubles, four home runs, 26 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. Those numbers are very far off what he produced in 2011.
During his Gold Glove and Silver Slugger season, the center fielder hit .321 and slugged .552 with 46 doubles, 32 HRs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases. Ellsbury also finished second in the AL MVP voting that year.
The Scott Boras client needs numbers like those to pad his resume before he signs a new contract. He's an elite center fielder when healthy, but he played less than half a season in 2012.
Ellsbury must stay healthy and have a monster year during his make-or-break year with the Red Sox. He’s financially going to need it.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia showed some serious power but a lack of defense in 2012.
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Jarrod Saltalamacchia also enters the final year of his contract with the Red Sox.
Although he was the team's full-time catcher in 2012, the Red Sox have five catchers on their active roster and added David Ross in the offseason. Ross or Ryan Lavarnway could start many games in place of Salty if he hits and fields like he did in 2012.
The switch-hitter crushed a career-high 25 home runs and slugged a career-high .454 in 2012. However, he hit just .222, posted a low .288 on-base percentage and struck out 139 times.
On top of that, Salty posted a catcher’s ERA of 4.84 and caught-stealing percentage of just 18 percent. He allowed 80 stolen bases, as well, in 2012.
With those numbers, he's better off being a designated hitter. However, the Red Sox already have the best one in the game in David Ortiz.
Given Salty's recent stats, Ross or Lavarnway could take over the starting job during the season. Ross is a great defensive catcher and pitch-caller, and Lavarnway is a young slugger and former highly touted prospect on the verge of a breakout season.
Saltalamacchia needs to continue to provide power but improve his defense during his make-or-break year for the Red Sox during his contract year.
All eyes are back on John Lackey when he returns to the mound after missing all of 2012.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
John Lackey is finally healthy. 2013 is the year he needs to prove that he’s a pitcher worth $17 million a year.
Lackey enters this season with a healthy throwing elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011 and missing all of the 2012 season.
However, prior to the surgery, he struggled in 2010 and 2011 with the Red Sox.
In his first two years with the team, Lackey posted a 26-23 record, 5.26 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and allowed 38 home runs. He also recorded 19 hit batsmen in 2011.
The 32-year-old had all of 2012 to heal his injury. He was even throwing live sessions toward the end of the season.
Lackey will enter 2013 as a healthy starting pitcher. Ben Cherington expects to "see a very good version of John Lackey in 2013," according to ESPN Boston.
The former ace needs to stay healthy and show consistency to keep his spot in the rotation and earn back the trust of the Fenway Faithful.
2013 is a make-or-break year for Lackey.